Andrew has an incredible track record, starting his career in consulting (Bain) and, following MBA, leading partnerships and BizDev in Expedia and Meta. More recently he launched and led partnership functions in Sonder and Hopin.
In his workshop:
Why are partnerships important as a top strategic #growth lever?
What skills and characteristics do partnership leaders need to have to really drive partnerships? What do they look like?
What do companies, who already value partnerships as a strategic growth lever, do? Which traits and characteristics do they share?
💡 In his presentation and Q&A Andrew shared many insightful concepts based on his experience in consulting, big tech and high growth companies.
0:00 - Intro
1:00 – Highlights of Andrew’s partnership journey - from Bain consulting to Expedia and Meta to Sonder and Hopin
7:30 – Partnerships as a top strategic growth lever [presentation]
22:30 – How to frame opportunities and take the first steps in partnerships?
28:00 – How are partnership strategies similar or different across tech companies?
31:00 – Why is the strategic mindset essential in partnerships?
35:30 – What to include in a partnership memo?
38:30 – Where should the partnership function sit in an organization?
44:00 – How to balance short and long term wins in partnerships
47:30 – Future of partnership strategy
Andrew, you are one of the people who have truly amazing experience in partnerships. You started in consulting, then you did an MBA. And then you were in Expedia, Sonder, Facebook, and you launched partnerships in Hopin. Fantastic. Not only today, we're going to cover some nitty gritty of your insights, but also I look forward to hearing your presentation about “Why Partnerships are a Strategic Lever”, and we'll do a Q&A at the end. But to kick this off, let's talk about your experience. Tell us a little bit more about how you came to partnerships. Just briefly about your journey there.
You would have asked me when I was a kid, is partnerships what I'm going to end up and I would have asked you probably “what is partnership?” It definitely wasn't something I plan to get into. But it's something that as I've navigated my career increasingly felt like the right space for me. Why don't I just pop up a little slide here that shows a little bit more about me, and can also then talk about why that journey has led me to partnerships? I think one reason is, if you think of my passions, I am such a people person. I love building relationships and connecting with people. I think that is very much part of the fundamentals of partnerships. My other passions are all around bringing people together, whether it's travel or cooking. I think in my DNA is this sense of connecting people that we're better together. Outside of my passions, I think my education helped me get there. I went to Columbia in New York to study economics, a big international school in New York City. Networking and connecting with all sorts of folks are always part of the process. And then, I ultimately did an MBA at Kellogg, which is where I really picked up a strategy toolkit. Thinking about how to solve problems in structured ways, how to think big picture and small picture and work with different functions. Coming out of business school, I went to Bain and spent a couple of years in their London office where I really got to, I guess you could say, fine-tuned the strategy toolkit. I think coming out of Bain being able to, again, make sense out of chaos. Be comfortable with ambiguity and put structure in a plan accordingly. Building relationships, and learning how to influence different stakeholders are all things I learned at Bain, that I think were really helpful core ingredients to like and be good at partnerships. After Bain, I left and joined Expedia where I was on their strategy and business development team. My work there were equal parts strategy and ops and also partnership building. And what was cool about the Expedia experience, unlike Bain, where I came up with strategies, I was coming up with strategies, but then had to put them into motion and learn how to work with product and engineering and marketing. It's where I first started getting a feel what is cross-functional work. And then, simultaneously also building relationships with other travel startups and doing partnerships with a company called LoungeBuddy, which allowed anyone buying an Expedia flight to buy a lounge ticket or access to any lounge, regardless of the airport they were flying out of. And then, a big strategic partnership works around how Expedia thinks about how to unlock the China market by maybe partnering with one of its big competitors. I moved on to Facebook and did similar work, just solving different problems where I was focused on helping scale business messaging adoption. And Facebook, or now Meta, was an even better platform for me to learn cross-functional work on steroids and how to work in a massive organization. And I think both my time and Expedia and Meta are really helpful for me to just wrap my head around how big tech works. But ultimately, I was hungry for more impact and wanted to get deeper into partnerships and build and have a team. That's what led me to Sonder, which was a hospitality startup at the time. It went public earlier this year. And I helped them build their partnerships team where I focused on distribution and sales-focused partnerships. We partnered with Google Travel and Booking.com and Expedia to help Sonder drive more bookings through third parties. But then also doing some cool work with the product team launching a services marketplace. Sonder, think of them as like a hotel. But they're a hotel that doesn't have a restaurant or parking. We built a product strategy to plug those gaps with partners that you could book all through the Sonder app. That was really my first foray into a real technical integration and almost product-focused partnership. And then, ultimately ended up at Hopin, which started as a virtual events platform at the beginning of COVID and morphed to become a big shared experiences platform with a number of different products with video being the common thread. And there, I got to define what the heck should partnerships even look like, and ultimately built a team and oversaw our product partnership efforts, our distribution and sales efforts, and big alliances. I think what's interesting about my background, again, I didn't start off wanting to do partnerships, but it became the perfect alignment of stars of just the fact that I love building relationships. I like thinking strategically and solving problems, and I love connecting the dots across companies. And I like to have an impact. And I think partnerships, certainly, does all those things.
Frankly, having on your CV just one of those logos would be amazing. But having all of them is really incredible. And kudos to you for having all of these experiences. Today, we are going to be talking about Why Partnerships are strategic growth levers and I'm curious, coming from consulting, why this topic resonates with you.
I think it does for a few different reasons. One is it resonates with the experiences I've had, consulting, thinking about strategy frameworks whether it's something as simple as “build-buy-partner”, to actually implementing these things and seeing results at the different places I've worked. I think it also resonates with me because businesses are increasingly looking for more efficient ways of doing things. And partnership seems to consistently be one of those ways one can do that. And I think it also just resonates because I think you're in the partner ecosystem world, there's more tech coming up to help enable partnerships, there are more organizations of folks getting together to talk about partnerships, it feels like there is just this extra momentum on the subject that I wasn't aware of even a few years ago. I think all those things just make me pretty optimistic on where this could and is going, I think.
Completely agree with you and I think definitely partnerships are having a moment. It is growing because of multiple reasons. We can touch on it in our Q&A. But what I'm really excited to see in your presentation is that you are bringing this rigorous consulting mindset of deconstructing important concepts into components. And I think a lot of people still feel that partnerships is just relationships, but it's not. It's a framework and it's a way to grow. And it's a pretty efficient way of growing if you can pull this off. I look forward to hearing your talk, the floor is yours, to set the stage, we're going to be going through maybe 15 minutes of presentation. And then, we'll do a Q&A in the end.
As mentioned, I'm excited to talk to you guys about why I feel partnerships should be considered a top strategic growth lever for all companies. And I think you could easily argue that companies have always thought about partnerships, but based on some of the things we just talked about, I feel there's room for it to become even more so. What I would love to do is walk through why I think that is so, and why I think partnerships are so important. And then, shift gears and talk about, given that, what partnership leaders, what skills and characteristics do partnership leaders that can really drive partnerships as a top strategic growth lever. What do they look like? What do they share? Because I think that will be important in making it happen going forward. And then lastly, I listed some observations I have of what do the companies that are already valuing partnerships as a strategic growth lever, or the future companies. What traits and characteristics do they share? All of us can leave this conversation in mind with some things that will allow us to be more effective in whatever partnership work we're doing. To kick off, I'd love to start and just talk about why I think partnerships are really valuable and why I think there's room for them to be even more strategic and have more gravitas in any organization.
The first piece is, partnerships have the potential to touch and grow multiple parts of the business or even an organization, this doesn't have to just be limited to the private sector. But whether it's bringing in new product features or giving people access to new customers or geographic markets, or new marketing opportunities, it truly can touch every piece. And I've seen that in my own experience, whether Hopin doing a partnership with LinkedIn that touched integrations and sales and also being very thoughtful of different functions internally like customer service. It truly can drive benefits to multiple different parts. On the note of benefits, I've noticed partnerships can boost cost efficiencies, which certainly is a hot topic now, just given the macroeconomic climate we're in. But if you think about it. When done right, partnerships can drive sales, potentially in a more cost-efficient way than doing direct sales motions. You can save companies money by doing partnerships in a smart way. Not only cost efficiencies, but I have noticed, partnerships can drive speed, whether it is speed to save costs, whether it is speed to get a new product feature or access to a new customer segment. I can speak, at Hopin, I would argue we closed multiple different product gaps very quickly through integration partners. And we also thought about partnerships as a way to access new geographic markets like Japan through partnerships, because we knew it would take a lot longer to do that organically. Another cool thing about partnerships that I've seen really be valuable is partnerships can lead to M&A activity. For example, at Hopin, oftentimes, one of our integration partners became a potential M&A target for our Corp Dev team. Oftentimes, it would go the other way that the corp dev team was interested in the potential target, and we would look at working with that target as a partner first to get a signal. Partnerships can bring in completely net new pieces of the business that way. Another thing that I've seen partnerships really help with is also just giving signals for the future of the business. Going back to Hopin, when we were thinking about how Hopin could play in-person events, we had a lot of relationships with companies that were very strong and in-person events, like hotel chains and AV and tech companies. And it was through those relationships that I was able to bring a signal to my product team, so they could be more thoughtful about how they build an in-person product going forward. And then, the last thing that I think is wonderful that I've seen happen both at my time at Hopin and in Sonder for sure, partnerships can often be the instigator to really creating cross-functional alignment in companies, especially for startups and growth-stage companies. As we're all aware, partnerships hit every part of the organization, whether it's a product, eng, marketing, sales, customer service, finance. Partnerships can often be the first real effort in a company to bring all those functions together to build the right processes to enable growth going forward. I think that is also a massive piece of value that partnerships can add. I'm sure there are others, and I'll look forward to debating and talking about what else there is, but these in themselves, I think prove that partnerships are valuable and should be considered even more so going forward. I want to shift gears now and talk about, what things do partnership leaders need to do, or possess, or skills that they need to have to really realize some of the things we looked at in the last slide.
And I'll start off by saying, I think, having strong strategy and problem-solving skills is really important. I'm really grateful for my time at Bain and doing the MBA. People can build the strategy and problem-solving toolkit in other ways. But for me, that was really useful, because as I mentioned earlier in our discussion, I think approach any problem now by thinking through “how do I quickly create structure?” How do I smartly use data to prove points or to inform decisions along the journey? I think that also has proved very beneficial for me, as I mapped out what partnership looks like for Hopin, and where do we start? Or potentially how do you think about prioritizing down a long list of partners that could be interesting, but you only have the resources to focus on a couple? That strategy and problem-solving toolkit I think is very important. That's also tied to being comfortable with ambiguity. One of the most exciting pieces of partnership work is when you get to encounter something like a whitespace opportunity. For me, at Hopin, it was how do we even define partnerships. Or we knew we wanted to do something with LinkedIn or Meta, but those are such big organizations. how do I even think about the different opportunities and how to prioritize? I had to be comfortable going in and say, I know there's a big opportunity, but how do I make sense of it and where do I start? I think that's something that you could apply to any partnership. Having a sense of what's going on across the entire business is something that I have found really useful. Whether at Hopin, being very clear on what our leadership is thinking about in terms of new products, or new customer segments that may be on the horizon, 1, 2, or 3 years out, can make my partnership work much more focused and effective. And it also helps with building relationships. Another piece that's really important is being able to have that 30,000-foot view, broad sense of company strategy, but also being willing to roll up your sleeves and get way into the details. I remember at Hopin, we had a big relationship with LinkedIn, where we were working with integrations and sales opportunities, and I had to have that good macro view. But there were times when I really needed to get the details one of our sales partnerships was, we had a streaming tool called StreamYard that LinkedIn selected as their preferred streaming tool partner to offer to their Creator accelerator program, which is basically a program to nurture more creators to do more creative important content on their site. Well, we launched our first cohort and realized that we weren't really driving adoption. I had to roll up my sleeves and look at a conversion funnel and map out the different steps of where we could drive value and come up with some tests and learn opportunities to optimize that. Having that constant balance is important. Another piece is to be creative. I mean, we all are probably familiar with standard frameworks, how to think about integration partners, or how to think about driving sales, but what else could we be doing? At Hopin, for example, one of the interesting things we did was, for our top partners, we thought about, why don't offer Hopin as a potential free offering to our top partners that we're also playing in the marketing space as a way to not only promote our brand, but drive more adoption, and also get the partner more excited about our technology. Always thinking about creative new ways that you could bring in partnership activity. And to close this piece out, I think it's also important that leaders enjoy building relationships, I think that's pretty self-explanatory. But if it feels like work to do that, you're probably not going to be great at this or enjoy it. Being humble and excited to learn from others I found is also very important and helpful in that relationship building. A great example is when I came into Hopin, and I knew we were going, the path forward was building an app store for our virtual events product. I needed to lean in with our product and eng folks closely. And somebody on my team was much more technologically savvy than I w as to learn all the ins and outs of thinking about the right connection points and how to work better with developers. And it helped build trust. And then being willing to offer that on the other end to give people the opportunity to learn from me on maybe how I might approach problems. Being scrappy, and rolling up your sleeves. I think that's pretty self-explanatory. But it also makes you more of a team player, and you may come up with new ideas that you weren't aware of, had you not been in the weeds. And then finally, having an understanding or ideally experience in multiple different types of partnership levers.
I'm grateful that my partnership experience has put me deep into product and integration work, working with big alliances like LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook of the world. Thinking about partnerships as a sales opportunity. And thinking about partnerships as a marketing opportunity. I think that allows me and would allow anyone to really take a holistic view of partnerships and be really effective.
The last bit I just want to close out on is, not just thinking about the individuals driving partnerships, but what did the organizations that drive partnerships, or think about partnerships super strategically share in common? And I think, first and foremost, it starts at the top. Having a CEO and a leadership team that truly believes in and promotes partnerships across the entire company. I was lucky at Hopin that our CEO was very bullish on partnerships. But I still needed to convince him what is the value. What does that actually translate into opportunity size and where should we start? If you're coming into an organization where you have a CEO that doesn't yet believe that, hopefully, that is your first step in convincing him and her that that is a huge opportunity and get them on board. I think another thing is not just leadership, but that all key functions are brought in as well and ideally from a leadership value. I'm thinking of product and eng leadership, customer service, and marketing, sales. These folks, the leaders of these organizations all need to understand and be bought-in. And ideally, there are tangential results that support that understanding. Maybe Product has an OKR tied to a partnership joint effort. Ideally, customer service and sales and sales alignment have resources that they can allocate or share to help you achieve certain goals, like driving a sales partnership. I would love to see a world where the chief partnership or BD officer is a typical C-suite position similar to the Chief Revenue Officer, and marketing officers. And I think we can get there and I think, I can just see that that role will be so much more effective. And the former two points around making sure other functions are aligning and your CEO is bought in, those things are much more likely to happen if you have someone sitting at the same level, who is really enforcing that and galvanizing the idea of partnerships across the entire organization.
And then finally, I've noticed one thing that can really make companies shine from a partnerships perspective is when there's super tight alignment across the “build-buy-partner” leadership. That often can mean the head of corp dev, the head of product, and the head of partnerships. At Hopin, we had that arrangement where I was often in meetings with our head of corp dev and our head of product, thinking about “hey, product, how are we thinking about driving feature x, y, or z?” Oh, that's something you're not going to probably address for the next year or two, “Cool is that an area that we want to think about potentially buying or partnering for?” Having that camaraderie and dialogue across the three functions allows for an effective strategy and path forward across these three different levers. And as I mentioned earlier, can open up opportunities where maybe partnerships provide signals for a potential acquisition opportunity, or vice versa. I think that's another really important one. And again, I'm sure there's a longer list. But these are some of the things I think about when I look for companies that are either championing partnerships well, or that could, if these things were in place. I'll pause there, I feel I've done a lot of talking. I'm sure there is questions. But thanks for letting me share those thoughts. Because if you can't tell already, I'm very excited and optimistic about partnerships becoming even more important.
First of all, thank you so much. It's a great I would say manifesto on what the best-in-class partnership looks like. Frankly, I think if we are not in this world already, we are quickly approaching it. Because I've been talking to multiple Chief Partnership Officers - the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed. Thank you so much for sharing your examples, that makes the talk much more specific.
Let me ask you a few questions. You worked in multiple organizations doing business development and partnerships. When you start in your role, and maybe Hopin would be a good example of different models, when you start a new role, how do you frame partnerships? And how do you frame the opportunity that the company might have in partnership. Because if you're a new partnership manager and you would go to the CEO and say, “hey, the sky's the limit, this is going to be amazing?” He or she is unlikely to believe you. What do you think about it? And what are the typical first steps that you might take in this role?
First step is to do your homework before even going up to the CEO and telling him or her or making that pitch. I think of the homework as a few different things I like to do some research and spend time with. Number one is being very clear on what the company's strategy is. What are we going for? Where are we in the company's lifecycle? In Hopin's case, at the time, it was all about the P0 priority was making sure that we had a product that met the demand that was coming in. Hopin was very fortunate at the time when I started, that we were in the middle of COVID. And Hopin started as a virtual events product. We had demand coming in, it was more, are we poised to satisfy that demand, which pointed me in the direction of how do we make sure that we have all the features to make sure it's our product over all the other ones that may be out there?
I think a second piece is starting to build the right relationships, so you can learn more about how other functions are solving for it. Making sure you get close with the product and eng leadership and hear how they've been thinking about just growing the business overall and if they have suggestions for how they think partnerships could plug the gap. Same with sales and marketing and customer service and building that camaraderie and trust also help make your case stronger when you go to the CEO and say, “I've aligned with product and marketing and these other functions and what I'm presenting you as a synthesis of those conversations”.
And I think another piece is, if sales are important, for example, when I was at Sonder, building relationships with distribution partners was important, because we were trying to drive net new bookings. I made sure to articulate the opportunity in forecasted bookings, in the metrics that the CEO cares about. It would be very clear to him in that case that if we were to partner with Expedia, Booking, and Google, we could grow bookings by X percent, which would translate into a revenue of Y million dollars. Speaking in the metrics that they care most about. I think the other piece that I found helpful too is, where possible if it's with the CEO, or if not the CEO, maybe his or her direct reports, teasing out your ideas as you're going along. It's somewhat iterative. By the time you get to the ultimate proposal, you've anticipated any pushback or questions, so it's as solid and buttoned up as possible.
The last thing I will say is, I found it's helpful to articulate the opportunity in phases. At Hopin, I mentioned, we knew off the bat, it was important to get a lot of these product feature gaps closed, so we could accommodate the demand that was coming in, so we wouldn't lose all of the inbound. The way I framed it was let's start with these set integrations is where I think we should start based on data such as most customers are asking for CRM, translation tools, etc, whatever data dictated. But where does this go? Phase one could be building integration, phase two could be integrations turned into an app store, and phase three into three years could be an app store that's monetized and as part of a broader partner program. Showing leadership that the opportunity may be X right now. But X will evolve to A, B, and C over a certain period of time. They get it's a worthwhile investment, just not just for the now but longer term.
Great examples, going a little bit back into your previous roles. Comparing different types of companies in how they do partnerships, can you speak a little bit more about how they are similar and how they're different? in terms of how for example, Expedia or Meta was approaching Biz Dev, and how it was different in Sonder and maybe Hopin?
There's a lot of variety, let's start with what's the same. I think the same is, again, to be successful, really having a sense of what the organization is ultimately trying to drive so whatever partnerships you're coming up with maps to that. Another similarity was working very well with cross functional stakeholders internally, but also on the partner side, and making sure that all of those folks felt brought in and ideally were part of the process.
I think what was different, maybe I'll break it out - here comes the ex-consultant in me - breaking it out into buckets. But if I bucket Expedia, Facebook, or sorry, Meta now together, let's call that big tech, and then Sonder and Hopin, are growth stage tech startups. What similar across the big tech companies was, there was already more of an established partnership function. It wasn't necessarily recreating the wheel, it was basically tapping into the systems and infrastructure that were there, but finding net new partners.
Whereas with growth stage tech Sonder and Hopin example. In Sonder, partnerships was loosely defined, and in Hopin partnerships wasn't even defined well. There it was coming up with a strategy and building it from scratch. And then, ideally, getting more into the playbook plug-and-play model that the big tech companies had. I think with that too allowed, speed and innovation to happen much more so in the growth stage, in the Hopin world. It was much easier for me to test things - offer Hopin for free to a partner and see if they bite, whereas you probably have to go through a lot more hierarchy and bureaucracy in the Expedia, Facebook's of the world. That said, though, I'm happy. I got to experience both because I think there's great things you can pull from both. What I learned from big tech partnerships was best practices for bringing functions together and templates for how to put together memos that everyone felt bought-in to and frameworks for keeping progress on success of certain partnerships. But then, I also was able to roll up my sleeves and be more nimble. Partnerships is I guess to sum up, there are definitely some similarities. But there are some key differences. But frankly, the differences across both create really cool learning opportunities that I think can make people more impactful if you can combine those things.
I really love that you brought your consultant hat. And I think what you were talking about the new breed of partnership managers resonates with me quite a bit. And I think the best of those new types of partnership managers have a good grasp of strategy, its understanding. I would love you to maybe speak just quickly, how your MBA or your strategy background help you in terms of tangible ways. You mentioned that you would quickly crunch data or you would come up with some framework. Can you maybe speak about some examples?
And actually, you just mentioned a memo as well, I love it. Amazon does a lot of stuff with memos. What you brought from strategy, business school, consulting, and other best-in-class examples into partnerships?
One is just the idea of just strategy development overall. Again, thinking about whenever you're thinking about a new opportunity, bearing very clear on what the market looks like? What are your competitors doing? Is the market growing, understanding customers, understanding the different levers at your disposal, whether it's M&A, whether it's building something organically, whether it's partnering. Having exposure to that way of thinking and frameworks has been helpful. I definitely leverage that. I think, as I said earlier, in just starting to put structure on what could partnerships look like at Hopin. I think another piece is just the data piece I'll bring up again is important. You don't necessarily need to have an exhaustive, huge, crazy, Bain or McKinsey or BCG level model to articulate the opportunity size. But I really try when I articulate our opportunity size to always have numbers to back it up. Even if it's just quick back of the envelope math, it's in a simple model that I can share with people.
I think another piece that business school and consulting taught me was just best practices for overall project management and stakeholder management. Whether it's thinking about org charts holistically. For example, at Hopin one of the big things we wanted to do was get in deep with Meta, and we had some big Northstar goals around trying to work with Instagram to become the first third party streaming partner that Instagram would allow to stream live into their Instagram Live product. Well, how do we think about doing something like that where they've never allowed anyone else to do that? One was understanding how do I think about the org chart? Understanding who are the leadership that product owners from a VP level at Instagram that I could pair with my CPO or my CRO to build a relationship or I could work from the senior director level to really influence. I guess put simply, thinking about the org chart as a holistic lever to be successful with partnerships or any strategy development - that I got on steroids from consulting. I think another thing too was frameworks for project management or even documenting strategy. I am a bit of a nerd, I do like spreadsheets. And when I do prioritization frameworks for coming up with which partnerships do we want to start with, given an agreed strategy, I will have a spreadsheet that lists the certain criteria for what I'm prioritizing and different weighting criteria, and then list those that are in consideration. I can easily spit out an output that shows anyone why I think we should start with partner X over partner Y, because I've got the data and the matrix to prove that. Those are things I brought in as well. And then I think just more broadly, just the soft skills, understanding how to tailor messaging to different audiences, what I present to the CEO is going to be different than I present to a partner manager or a product person. Or how I talk to product and eng is going to be different how I talk to marketing. Understanding how to put on those different hats was also something I think I leaned on.
And then, finally just network. I think the wonderful thing about business school and the consulting networks are that everybody goes on to do different things and loves to keep in touch and I definitely found the right contacts at Instagram through my Facebook employer day when I worked at Facebook. Friends who still work there and also people from my business school network that were at Instagram and I can count tons of examples where getting a partnership was just through those networks.
I love that you mentioned a memo. And I think memo typically explains what are the nitty gritty and how people think about key benefits in partnerships, and stuff like that. and what are the things that they highlight in partnerships. What was in your memo structurally speaking?
Memo was something I didn't necessarily pick up just from consulting, I also had some senior folks who had spent time at Amazon, both at Sonder and Hopin that brought memo culture in. And I think memo should encompass, especially if you think about it from a partnership lens, a few different things. One is context for what is the problem that you're trying to solve with partnerships? Brief “Why is it important?” What the opportunity is? And again, if you can specify the opportunity with some numerical example or number, ideally, that number is reflective of the metric that the company is cares most about and is prioritizing. I think another piece that is important is, and this could be part of context, but I always call out what is the competition doing that may be similar just to add a sense of urgency. If you know that at Hopin's world, if one of our virtual events competitors was building relationships with CRMs in a more robust way, that could provide more urgency to do so, if not better? I think another thing too, that's important to list in memo is what are the clear asks, and for whom? People don't just read it and say, Yeah, this sounds a good idea. But be very clear, CEO and leadership, I want the thumbs up that you sign off and give me the green light to go ahead and move forward with this. Sales, if crisp ask it's to drive a sales partnership, can I lean on you to help me leverage some of your sales enablement materials that I could provide to the third parties to make it easier for referrals or reseller partnership arrangements to happen. Being very explicit on those asks. And then one thing that I like to do that not necessarily everyone does is, have a section where you say, who needs to read the document and have them sign or initial that they have looked at it and when, so you can then say, maybe if you get some pushback, two months or so down the road be “well, the CEO approved this at this date, or head of marketing just a kind reminder, you signed in and bought in on this. And that can be your working document and source of truth as you ideally operationalize the partnership with the help of the different folks that input in that initial decision.
That is brilliant. And I really like how you do that. And I think it pushes people to at least take a look, at least glimpse through that and it's amazing.
Question related to where partnerships are in the org typically. I guess there are different types of people in how they approach partnerships. I'm talking about CEOs of the companies, and they would think, “okay, partnership is more revenue generating function, it should be closer to sales. There's other people who think “I need to do more integrations, it's closer to the product. And then, generally speaking it's a little bit fancier, if I may say, to be closer to the product, But the reality of life, especially today, you need to also generate revenue, generally speaking.
How do you think about this dichotomy of “closer to product, closer to sales”? And there's obviously marketing in the middle. How do you think where best-in-class partnerships should sit?
Going back to my presentation, I think, ultimately, partnerships is something that sits on its own, or that maps directly to the CEO. Because I think partnerships have the potential to drive across so many areas of the business. That said, I do think where partnerships sit can evolve over the lifecycle of a company. For example, early on, let's say you know that getting new product feature gaps is P0 for using partnerships to start, I could see a world where it might make sense to have that function sit within product, because that is where you need to get that initial momentum and inertia going. And partnerships is only going to be successful if you get results. Making sure those functions sit closely together. But doing that with an open mind to say “this could evolve”. The reason ultimately why I do like partnerships standing alone is I also think one, you're less likely to deal with conflict there. Conflict meaning “all right, if I'm working on a partnership that is dealing with integrations, but also heavy co-marketing and ultimately could translate into a sales opportunity. Having that be centrally located and map to the CEO is more likely going to work when that person is not siloed just in product, or that function is not just siloed, just in sales”. And that also comes up to one of the other points, I brought in my presentation that ideally having partnerships mapped as its own org, on the same level or with a leader at the same level as the CMO, CPO, and CRO, that then helps encourage the buy-in and the resources and the OKR or goal alignment from those other parties to help give dotted line support to that partnership org. But again, I think we're probably going to see an evolution. I doubt every company from here going forward is going to just start and have a chief partnerships person. I think we'll see an evolution, I said that partnerships may start in product. And then there'll be some interesting marketing opportunity, where partnerships plays a role. And you get some mini successes within each of these functions that could ultimately dictate the need for that centralized view of partnerships. But it's a constant debate and it's one that I've had this discussion multiple times with people and I think the key is just to have an open mind and be willing to evolve the thinking, because that's where you're ultimately gonna get what you need.
I’m curious what you think about this new narrative saying that the partnership function should be centralized, but it should be matrix organization across all the functions. Marketing have a partnership manager in marketing, and product would have partnership manager in product, while chief partnership officer would be overseeing all of them, just go dotted line to all of these orgs.
What you're saying is there's a chief partnerships officer that then oversees an org that's horizontal to all of the parts of the business?
Yeah, like Chief Evangelist and then, he or she would have ambassadors in those departments.
Yeah. And I think that's where it becomes an interesting dialogue of, is it solid line or dotted line? And I think that can ebb and flow, although I do think like a chief partnership officer probably needs in my experience, having someone that is not dotted line, but direct line from the product org is important. I also think having someone that is maybe an ops or program manager is important to help think about building out that program holistically. You're going to need some direct reports that you work with directly and are not dotted to you. That said, I think it also depends on the needs of the business. Maybe sales and product feature gaps, or AppStore are the two really important drivers. And if those are the most important drivers, ideally, you have direct lines to the Chief Partnership Officer, you have dedicated product and eng, partnerships, people that dot line to the product org. And you have direct line in partnerships to a partner sales manager, whereas marketing maybe is dotted. Again, it depends on the needs of the business. But I guess what I'm trying to say is, for the type of partnerships where you know, are going to be most valuable and most effective and prioritized with the business, my recommendation would be to keep those direct line in a dedicated partnership org where those that may not be the most impactful in the near to medium term could be dotted line.
I tend to agree with you. An important question is how do you make partnerships successful? Not only as an individual relationship with a specific partner, but maybe more on a company level. How do you make the function impactful and successful? And because there's always this dichotomy that partnership takes time, it's generally speaking a longer term process. But at the same time, many expect partnerships to be generating some impact pretty quickly. How do you balance all of this internal anticipation and also external balancing of this third parties who have their own agenda? Do you have any advice or maybe best practices that you've seen there?
I certainly learned this along the way, it's not something I just started off with, but I think when I look back at what helps make that successful. You're right, having tangible wins is, I think, one big thing. That gets back to my point I was talking about earlier - where possible, always try to envision a phased approach. For example, with some of our integration partners, like HubSpot, or Marketo, or Salesforce. Step one was let's get an integration, step two is how do we learn from our customers and continue to make that integration more robust? And then, how do we think about broader co-marketing and potential sales opportunities. Being upfront expectation setting both internally, but also with the partner on what success could be, and then how to phase that success in terms of milestones. And then, making sure that you're working towards each milestone. And when you get to a milestone you celebrate, and you elevate that. One of the things that worked really well at Hopin was, we did a company all-hands on our virtual events platform every week. I made sure that every once in a while myself or someone on my team was highlighting some of those wins, even if it was simple as just getting to milestone one versus the ultimate badass alliance, where we were hitting on multiple different levers. Similarly, offering to come and speak at the partner side, or if not me, someone from my leadership team could come and talk about how excited we were about the partnership, where our product strategy was going to keep the other side motivated. I think put succinctly it's making sure that both parties and internally everybody's aligned on what success is and signed off, and breaking the success into milestones that are celebrated and communicated across the organization, both your company and the partner along the way, just keep the momentum and the excitement going. And I think the other beauty about the milestone approach is if something's not working, you potentially have an easy way to pause, reassess, or change things up a little bit to ensure that you can ultimately get to a more manageable milestone inside of this big Northstar that may take forever to get to and people lose interest and steam over.
This is a great approach. I've been doing milestones in our own development and I think it works really well. And I think, keeping partnerships light in a way that it's easy to go forward, but easy to change direction, not maybe easy, but doable to change direction as things evolve. Thank you so much.
My last question before we wrap up is looking into the future. Let's say, 3 -5 years in partnerships, you have all these chief partnership officers in many companies, rather than few. But taking more of a bigger picture approach, what are you personally excited about thinking about this partnerships, strategy, and their intersection?
One thing I'm excited about is that, I'm not the only one thinking about there is this potential in partnerships, again, I mentioned your business and others, now you're seeing a whole ecosystem of companies out there that are just helping the idea of partnerships become more of a thing and scale. I'm excited about that. And while I'm frustrated and anxious about the economy right now, I also think that's another window for partnerships. As I mentioned, partnerships can drive scale and signal and speed and cost efficiencies and much better ways and traditional ways of doing business. Whenever times are shaky, it's when people are willing to think about business differently. I'm optimistic that coming out of whatever murky economic time we are dealing with, partnerships can be the shining stars to help businesses just do things differently and put partnerships more up front and center. And I'm just excited to see, as it builds momentum to see what awesome new innovative partnership levers and ideas come with more people that look at partnerships as an actual interesting function, like I think people have traditionally thought of marketing and sales in the past. The best and the brightest think of partnerships is one of the most sought after functions. I think we're in for a really exciting next phase for partnerships.
Cannot agree more with you. We’re trying to do more in terms of explaining best-in-class partnerships. And thank you so much for being very generous with your time today, sharing your insights. I think you have a unique set of experiences and knowledge and insights. I think a lot of people will benefit from applying your insights into their practice day to day partnerships. Quick question, what is the best way to connect with you if people would love to connect with you afterwards?
Happy to connect with folks, hear your thoughts on the presentation or brainstorm partnership ideas together. I'm on LinkedIn. Email is probably the easiest andrew .beckmann[at]gmail.com. I don't know if we can share my LinkedIn link when we share this presentation so people can get access there but eager to connect with people so please reach out.